Once Saved, Always Saved?


The word 'IF' is one of the smallest words, but when used, can change the entire structure of a sentence. The definition of IF means: 1) In the event that; 2) On the condition that; or 3) Provided that. KEEP THESE DEFINITIONS IN MIND AND APPLY THEM to the Scripture verses where IF is used.

Knowing the meaning of IF, let us now proceed with a few questions which we will answer according to the Bible. 1) Eternal life is a free gift. How can one receive this gift? 2) Can a true Christian or a born again child of God ever lose his eternal life? 3) Will God give us a gift and then take it away from us? 4) Won't we just lose our crown IF our works are wood, hay and stubble?

The FIRST QUESTION: Eternal life is a free gift. How can we receive it? The rich young ruler asked Jesus in Mark 10:17, "...what shall I do that I may inherit ETERNAL LIFE?" The answer was to leave all, take up his cross and follow Jesus. In essence, we must believe by faith that Jesus Christ is GOD and dedicate our entire life to His service. The rich young ruler had observed the commandments of the Law from his youth up, but he still lacked. All his righteousness did not grant him ETERNAL LIFE. There is nothing we can do of ourselves to earn eternal life. Truly we are saved by faith, not by works, yet good works, righteousness and holiness will always follow a true salvation experience. In James 2:14-20 we are told that faith without works is dead. The Bible also tells us that we must WALK IN THE LIGHT as He is in the light (1 John 1:7), and John 8:31 tells us to CONTINUE IN HIS WORD. Hebrews 3:14 states that we are to hold our confidence steadfast UNTO THE END. AS LONG AS we OBEY His voice and KEEP His word, our gift of ETERNAL LIFE remains secure.

The SECOND QUESTION asks whether or not a child of God can ever lose his ETERNAL LIFE. Since we are to be judged by the Bible, let us use it for our answer. Galations 6:7-9: "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap LIFE EVERLASTING. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall REAP, IF we faint not". We must sow to the Spirit to reap everlasting life. This, however, is not sufficient. It states clearly here that we only reap IF (provided that) we faint not. IF we start to sow to the Spirit and faint, we CANNOT reap EVERLASTING LIFE.

Hebrews 3:14: "For we are made partakers of Christ, IF we hold the beginning of our confidence STEDFAST UNTO THE END". How are we made partakers of Christ? IF we REMAIN steadfast (faithful; loyal; firm in belief) unto the end. IF we do not remain faithful UNTO THE END, we CANNOT be partakers of Christ.

How can people say that sin will enter heaven? IF God could not even look on His sinless and blameless Son as He became sin for us, how can He look on a Christian who is willfully sinning and ignore it? Can you honestly hear God say, "It's alright my child. Come enter into the joy of the Lord. I couldn't look on My only begotten Son as He bore the sins of the world, but I'll overlook your sin. After all, My Word only said 'Be ye holy, for I am holy' (1 Peter 1:16), and 'Come out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing' (II Corinthians 6:17)." Doesn't that sound foolish, especially since His Word teaches that we must live a pure and holy life? Hebrews 5:9 "And being made perfect, he became the author of ETERNAL SALVATION unto ALL them that OBEY Him". Only those who OBEY God will have ETERNAL SALVATION. Revelation 22:14 "Blessed are they that DO his commandments, that they may have RIGHT to the TREE of LIFE, and may ENTER in through the gates into the city."

Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden before they partook of the TREE of LIFE because of their sin. Genesis 3:22-24: "...now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the TREE of LIFE and eat, and LIVE FOREVER: (Eternal Life), ...he drove out the man". Here we see plainly that only those who OBEY Him can ENTER Heaven and have ETERNAL LIFE. Adam and Eve had the opportunity to eat of the TREE OF LIFE, but God drove them out before they touched this tree because of their disobedience. As Christians, we have a RIGHT to this TREE of LIFE IF we DO His commandments and OBEY Him. IF we do not do what His Word teaches, we lose our RIGHT to partake of this TREE OF LIFE. IF Adam and Eve would have partaken of this tree, they would have lived for ever (eternal life), but SIN barred them from this privilege. IF they were not allowed to eat of this tree because of sin, how can one who has sin in his life be allowed to eat and receive ETERNAL LIFE? God is not partial.

James 4:4 asks us, "...know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God. Whosoever therefore will be a FRIEND of the WORLD is the ENEMY of GOD". This verse speaks of spiritual adultery, where we want to be a child of God, but we also want the things of the world. IF we want the world, we are an ENEMY of God. How can a person commit sin (which is considered enmity or opposition to God) and still ENTER heaven? Remember, "...Ye cannot serve God and mammon" Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13.

Hebrews 10:38: "Now the just shall live by faith: but IF any man DRAW BACK, my soul shall have no pleasure in him". How can one DRAW BACK IF he has never experienced salvation? An unsaved person cannot draw back because all are born in sin. This scripture has to be referring to Christians going back to sin. Galations 2:18: "For IF I BUILD AGAIN those things which I DESTROYED, I make myself a TRANSGRESSOR". How can one BUILD AGAIN unless he first DESTROYED something? When a person comes to Christ, he destroys sin. IF he builds again that sin which was destroyed by him, he becomes a TRANSGRESSOR. 1 John 3:4: "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for SIN in the transgression of the law". 1 John 5:17: "ALL unrighteousness is SIN:". James 4:17: "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it NOT, to him it is SIN". Romans 6:23: "For the WAGES of SIN is DEATH;". 1 John 3:8: "He that COMMITTETH SIN is of the DEVIL;".

Hebrews 10:26: "For IF we sin wilfully after that we have received (accepted; acquired) the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth NO MORE SACRIFICE for sins". We are no longer covered by the Blood of Jesus IF we WILLFULLY CONTINUE IN SIN after receiving salvation. This condition is also known as backsliding. In this case, we must REPENT and do our "first works" (receive salvation) again. IF we REPENT and CONFESS our sins, we have an Advocate with the Father. IF we don't repent again, the Bible states clearly that we have SIN in our lives and NO sin will ENTER heaven. Verse 29 of this chapter mentions a person who had been sanctified (one who was free from sin; purified; and filled with the Holy Spirit), and then had trodden under foot the Son of God. This is crucifying Jesus afresh.

The setting for Mathew 5 (see also in Luke 14:34) is Jesus talking to His disciples. In verse 13 He tells them, "Ye are the salt of the earth: but IF the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is henceforth GOOD FOR NOTHING, but to be CAST OUT, and to be trodden under the foot of men". The word "savour" means taste, zest or resemblance. IF we, as the salt, lose our resemblance of Christ (by committing sin) we are GOOD FOR NOTHING. II Peter 2:20-22: "For IF after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, (born again experience) they are AGAIN ENTANGLED THEREIN, AND OVERCOME, (are gone back into the life of sin) the LATTER end is WORSE with them than the BEGINNING. For it had been BETTER for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to TURN from the holy commandment DELIVERED unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire". In reality, we are that sow. We were washed and made clean in the Blood of the Lamb, but some return to the wallowing in the mire of sin -the very thing from which they were cleansed. The warning remains: "...the Latter end is worse with them than the beginning". In the beginning they deserved hell, and their latter end is worse. Does it sound like they are going to heaven? Definitely not!

In Romans 11, Paul is talking about the Jews and the Gentiles. He likens both Jews and Gentiles to branches. The Jews are the natural branches (verse 21), but the Gentiles (the wild olive tree-verse 17) are grafted (united closely or implanted) to the root (Jesus Christ). This passage is not talking about sinners, but rather about the children of God; for in verse 16 it says: "...and IF the root be holy, so are the branches". These holy branches (Christians) will be cut off IF they do not continue in the Lord! Verses 20-22 warn us, "...Be not highminded, but fear: For IF God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee goodness, IF thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off". Now IF the branch is cut off, it is No longer partaker of the root of the tree. Remember that this is speaking about the Christian because the branches are holy, and sinners are not holy.

John 15:2-6 also talks of the Vine and the branches, "Every branch in Me (Christians) that beareth not fruit he taketh away: ...and men gather them, and cast them into THE FIRE, and they are burned". However, IF after a person has gone back into sin, and he repents, Romans 11:23 says: "...God is able to graft them in again." IF a Christian cannot backslide or lose his salvation, how then can God be able to graft them in again?

In II Peter 1:5-7, The Apostle tells us what to add to our faith and then says in verse 8, "For IF these things (items mentioned in previous verses) be in you, and ABOUND, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. ...for IF ye do these things, ye shall never fall". Peter also admonishes us in verse 10, "...give diligence (steady application of work; constancy; continuance) to make your calling and election sure:". He is saying here that there is a continual process involved in making our calling and election (salvation and Eternal Life) sure, and as long as we do those things (verses 5-7), we will not fall. Jude 24 also tell us that Jesus "...is able to keep us from falling". IF we cannot fall, why then does Revelation 22:19 tell us that our name can be taken out of the book of life, and out of the holy city (heaven)? Revelation 20: 15 tells us that our names will not be taken out IF we overcome. Therefore, IF we do not overcome, our names will be blotted out.

Continuing with our THIRD QUESTION we ask: Will God give us a gift and then take it away from us? No, God will not take back our gift of eternal life, yet we can throw it away by our actions. In the first place, eternal life is only promised to those that follow Jesus, do His commandments and obey His voice. The truth is that we will lose our gift of eternal life if we choose to return to a life of sin.

However, for those who feel that the gift of eternal life is unconditional and that they can never lose it, there is a question I would like to ask you. Have you ever received a gift from someone for no other reason than their love for you? I'm sure you have. When you accepted the gift, it was yours to do with as you pleased. You had several options. One option was to keep it and cherish it, while another of your choices was to throw it away or give it away. Perhaps you decided to keep the gift, but after a period of time it became valueless to you. So you decided to sell this gift. The gift, however, may still be very valuable to someone else. There was someone in the Bible who did the same thing. You may read the story of Esau for yourself in Genesis 24:29-34. He sold his inheritance or birthright (a Christian's inheritance is eternal life -Matthew 19-29) on his own free will for only a mess of pottage. At the point of extreme hunger, the mess of pottage was worth more to Esau than his birthright. Likewise, at a point of discouragement, weakness, or temptation in a Christian, the pleasure of sin may seem to be worth more to him than his inheritance, so he sells his inheritance for the fleshly desires of the present.

Hebrews 12:15-17 calls Esau a FORNICATOR and a PROFANE person, "...who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright". We, too, can sell the priceless gift of salvation and eternal life. IF Esau was considered a profane (impure; defiled; unsanctified; and unholy) person for selling his birthright (a rightful inheritance given to him by birth. A Christian also has a rightful inheritance by birth into the family of God), how much more would we be considered PROFANE and UNHOLY for flirting with the world? What does the Bible say about a fornicator? "...they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." (Galations 5:19-21; and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Revelation 21:8,27 tells us that these abominable people shall have their part in the LAKE OF FIRE.

Someone said that IF we didn't have the promise of eternal life that we would have to live in fear all the time, being afraid that we would lose our reward. This is incorrect. As a child of God, I do not fear losing my salvation or eternal life, as long as (provided that) I keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight (1 John 3:23). Besides, if I am living in sin it may well be that the FEAR OF GOD would cause me to repent.

No, God does not take back His gift, but we may dispose of it ourselves. Remember: We are free moral agents. God has given each of us the right to choose to serve Him or to serve sin and the devil. Once we accept Him, we are still free moral agents. We still have the choice to continue to follow Him, or to return to sin. I've often heard people say, "You cannot even wiggle out of God's hand!" IF this were true, then we would no longer have our freedom of choice. Do you feel that God would allow us to have a choice as a sinner, but to lose all our power of decision or choice as a Christian? This is absurd! God loves His children. He does not make "Christian robots" out of us. We still have our mental capacity of choice when we are Christians. With our free will, we can decide to continue to follow Christ, or to sin and pay the consequences.

Finally, the last question raised was: Won't we just lose our crown IF our works are hay, wood, and stubble? People who believe in a "once saved, always saved" doctrine tell us that we only lose our crown IF we sin, but that we still have eternal life. Does the Bible teach this? Paul tells us in II Timothy 4:8: "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of RIGHTEOUSNESS, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them that love His appearing." Not only is Paul receiving a crown, but all the others that love Christ's appearing. What bride is there that does not love the appearing of the bridegroom?

What do we then do with the Scripture that talks about our works being burned but we ourselves still being saved? 1 Corinthians 3: 12-15 says, "Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." The works referred to in this scripture have nothing to do with the problem of Christians living in sin. The description of one man's work as being wood, hay and stubble does not mean that they were sinful works. There is no excuse for the Christian who desires to continue in sin and claim eternal life. If you choose to mock the sacrifice which Jesus made for us by continuing in to live in sin while claiming His name, you will lose more than a crown, you'll lose your soul forever in HELL!!

James 1:12-15: "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him. ...But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." Notice the process of temptation; a man is tempted through his lust; he is enticed; sin is produced; death is our wage. Some will try to say that a "sinning Christian" will be removed by a premature death. These verses do not say that. It tells us that sin brings forth death, for the wages of sin is death (hell fire).

James tell us in verse 12 that IF a man endures (perseveres; holds on; doesn't give into; remains firm under) temptation, he will receive a crown of life. The word LIFE in the twelfth verse means eternal life or, more specifically, a crown of eternal life.

Checking into the Greek, we find that the word death (as used in verse 15) comes from the word THANATOS (pronounced - than' at os). This word can mean either a physical death or a spiritual death. We do know that because of sin, we all will experience a physical death. Everyone who has unconfessed sin in his life will also experience a spiritual death which is Hell. The above passage refers to spiritual death, and not just a physical or premature death. The truth is that when you choose sin you choose death, and in choosing death you are rejecting the Life that Jesus offers.

"And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, THOU SHALT NOT EAT OF IT: for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die." (Genesis 2:16-17). the Hebrew word for die in this verse is MUWTH (pronounced mooth). Adam was created as a sinless person (holy), but was given an instruction to obey. God plainly told him that IF he disobeyed and partook of the forbidden fruit, that he would die. We know that on the day when Adam and Eve partook of this fruit they did not die physically, for Adam lived to be nine hundred and thirty years old. (Genesis 5:5) Yet eventhough they did not have an immediate physical death, they died spiritually, for God said, "...in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." Here we see a holy person disobeying our holy God. They were no longer holy, and they had to pay the consequence. This consequence was both a physical death (which came nine hundred and thirty years later) and a spiritual death, which took place at the moment of disobedience. The consequence did not stop with them but has been passed on to everyone of Adam's race. IF Adam, being holy, could sin and lose his right to the Garden of Eden and to the Tree of Life, how much more can a Christian today disobey God and lose his right to the Tree of Life?

For those who still choose to believe that a "sinning Christian" only loses his crown, let's back up a little. Paul said that he was receiving a crown of righteousness. IF a person loses his crown of righteousness, he is then unrighteous, or unjust. 1 Corinthians 6:9 says, "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?" Also, "All unrighteousness is sin:" 1 John 5:17; and, "For the wages of sin is death;" Romans 6:23. Continuing with this train of thought, it is obvious that one who does not endure temptation will lose his crown of life. IF he loses his eternal life, then he will receive eternal death, or HELL!! Either way, a person with sin in his life cannot continue in sin and still inherit eternal life. The Bible teaches that quite clearly. There are numerous other Scriptures that verify the necessity of a clean, pure life. This pure life is needed to enter heaven.

In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Paul is comparing a physical race to the spiritual race. Those who strive for the masteries, (supremacy; championship; victory) must be temperate and must strive lawfully (according to the rules). II Timothy 2:5 tells us that IF a runner does not strive lawfully, he is disqualified. In a physical race, a runner starts out with hopes of making the goal. However some, after entering the race, become discouraged, disinterested, or perhaps distracted. They take their eyes off of the goal and drop out. Those who do not CONTINUE in the race have NO CHANCE at all to win or reach the goal. The spiritual race is the same way. IF we do not obey His commandments (striving Lawfully), or IF we take our eyes off of Him (the goal), we are disqualified from obtaining heaven and eternal life.

Some say that in this passage Paul was only afraid of losing his crown. First of all, I can find no Scripture in the Bible saying that. Secondly, Paul says in verse 27, Notice carefully that he makes it personal: "I myself". Does it sound like he means his crown? Obviously Paul feared becoming a castaway and losing his salvation.

In closing, take the following advice: "Search the scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life:". (John 5:39) Don't stop with these Scriptures mentioned here, but search for yourself, for on the day of Judgment we will not be judged by what we have been taught by men, but rather by the Word of God. Again, I say SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES! On Judgment day you'll be glad that you did!

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